Teach Risk-taking

Teach risk-taking

We must teach our youth to look for opportunities and that failure in pursuit of them is a learning opportunity and “badge of honor,” not a stigma to avoid at all costs.

Why This is Important

The economy in which Generation Z finds itself is one of the hardest in many years. Nevertheless, if entrepreneurial ambitions are to be realized, Gen Z must be unafraid of taking risks. Unfortunately, many high school and college students are reluctant to take a concept, organize a team to make an idea come to fruition and then raise money to see it become a commercial reality. To avoid the very real risk of regret, this taking risks for fulfilled opportunities should be an important skill to inculcate in Gen Z.

Best Practices

Peer-based learning is an excellent way to encourage risk-taking in the classroom. Using “think-pair-share” models, students are encouraged to brainstorm individually, pair with a partner to discuss those ideas, and then share their thoughts to the larger group. When paired with seemingly risky tasks, such as questioning the status quo or coming up with alternative solutions to a problem, this model encourages students to take bolder moves, especially when they have peer support.

Taking this idea outside the classroom and into the working world, there are three distinct organizations that help facilitate risk taking in an entrepreneurial setting: the incubator, the accelerator and co-working. An incubator is often associated with a college or university and allows a student to help develop his or her idea into a product or service while they are on campus. An accelerator is a way for investors to pool their money and fund a business over the short term to develop an enterprise in its next phase of growth. A co-working arrangement is where individuals apply their skills to a real work setting outside of the university environment. The owner of the space helps recruit members who lease the different sections of space, and, similar to the “think-pair-share” model in the classroom, the co-working environment allows people to bounce ideas off of one another. It provides a place where people move outside of their familiar surroundings to have interactions with others that can help launch or move an enterprise in the next phase of development.

Current Context in NC

There are opportunities at many of higher education institutions to develop risk-taking skills. Leadership programs such as NC State’s Center for Student Leadership, Ethics and Public Service highlight the importance of healthy risk-taking behaviors and act as a resource to learn how to take healthy risks effectively. In terms of building risk-encouraging entrepreneurial skills, programs such as Western Carolina University’s online Master’s of Entrepreneurship program, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business’s Center for the Advancement of Social Enterprise (CASE), and many, many others are offered throughout the state.

Co-working spaces foster an environment that encourages risk-taking outside of the classroom, and North Carolina has ample opportunity to increase the number of these spaces throughout the state. Currently, many of these places are in major urban areas, including Designbox in Raleigh, Bull City Forward in Durham, Mojo in Asheville, and BuenaVista in Wilmington, among others. Expanding such risk-accepting ventures and linking them to schools and other Gen Z-focused organizations in other regions could help cultivate a similar mindset in NC’s youth regardless of location.

Learn more about the Gen Z initiative to expand co-working that IEI is currently facilitating.

Content table

Other Resources


Teaching  Kids to Take Healthy Risks

Faculty Focus on Today’s Higher Education Professional

 Teaching Risk Taking in the College Classroom